Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Schoenberg Quartet #2 does resemble Mahler; more on the Piano Concerto and Orchestra Variations; my own progress report

Concomitant to my own music composition renewal, I picked out four more compositions by Arnold Schoenberg to review today.
I have a Nuova Era CD of some music with Glenn Gould and conductor Dmitri Mitropoulos.  Besides Bach (the Klavier Concerto #1 in D Minor), if offers the Piano Concerto, Op. 42, in 1942, composed shortly before I was conceived.  The work, about 18 minutes, is in four connected sections, and actually ends on a fortissimo C major chord, despite all the atonality.  Despite the derivation from a twelve tone row, the work has an almost Brahmsian opulence in spots. 
The CD concludes with the Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31, which comprise a Theme, nine variations, and a Finale, with somewhat the format of a late Beethoven movement.  The program notes find Mahler in this dissonant work, but didn’t so much.  Yet Mitropoulos was a renowned conductor when I was coming of age, as he predated Bruno Walter and Eugene Ormandy. The variations are performed by the Berlin Philharmonic (recorded in 1960).  The piano concerto was recorded with the New York Philharmonic in early 1958, when I was in ninth grade.  But I had already read about Schoenberg’s theories at that time.
Chandos has a 1992 CD of string orchestra versions of some of Schoenberg’s chamber works, played by the I Musici de Montreal, conducted by Yuli Turovsky.  I’ve already discussed Verkarlte Nacht (Nov. 7. 2009). The String Quartet #2 in F# Minor, though, recall does recall late Mahler, most of all in the lively second movement.  The last two movements have soprano solo, with Nadia Pelle as soprano, with text by Stefan George.  The third movement is called “Litany”, and is somewhat conventionally dour f# minor music, ending loudly.  The finale bridges on atonality, disposing of a key signature with cartwheeling motives, before the soprano sings “Transport”, which starts with “I hear the air from other planets flowing”, as if it belonged now in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”.  Indeed, the only way the words of the poem could come true is by viewing the “reflection” of the planets through wormholes.  The idea that a tidally locked planet could have a carefully managed civilization planted by aliens has always interested me (as in Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus’).  The YouTube video above is a performance posted by Wellesz Theater. The work seems to end in D, rather than F#. 
The CD also includes the exuberant  “Ode to Napoleon” (Op. 41), with speaker Marc-Andrew Hamenlin, and joyous loud close in E-flat.

In my senior year of high school, I had to write an extra term paper in English as an "A-B credit" and the paper was about "Mahler's Influence on Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg".  

As to my own work, I’ve started re-entering my own  (4-page) “Polytonal Prelude” (in D and E simultaneously, although I didn’t actually use a key signature), with “voices” in Sibelius.  I expect to convert to Sibeliius 7.5 in December.  When the work is played on a computer without rubato, it is not as effective as when played by a human.  With piano works in slower tempo, this will usually be the case. 

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